Starless Knicks upbeat but face slog

Jimmy Butler was another player targeted by the New York Knicks but ultimately fell through their clutches. The four-time All-Star joined the Miami Heat instead. PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE
Jimmy Butler was another player targeted by the New York Knicks but ultimately fell through their clutches. The four-time All-Star joined the Miami Heat instead. PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

NEW YORK • The New York Knicks' rebuilding process is not going according to plan. At all.

And, what is worse, it looks as though the ailing team, who Forbes ironically says is also the National Basketball Association's most valuable franchise, will not be competing for anything besides mediocrity for the next few years.

After trading former franchise cornerstone Kristaps Porzingis to the Dallas Mavericks for players and two future first-round draft picks in February, they ended the regular season with a league-worst 65 losses, putting them in a solid position to select No. 1 overall pick Zion Williamson in this year's NBA draft.

However, it was the New Orleans Pelicans that landed the top prize, dropping the Knicks to third instead, selecting R.J. Barrett.

The drop in talent is notable. According to ESPN, Williamson has a 72 per cent chance of playing at an All-Star level in the NBA whereas Barrett's chances are pegged at 10 per cent.

Still, it was not thought the latter would have to carry much of the load owing to a star-studded free-agent class, one in which the Knicks cleared enough cap room to land not one but two max-contract players.

But Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, two of the most-sought after free agents of the off-season, chose to sign with city rivals, the Brooklyn Nets, while they also lost out on acquiring Anthony Davis, who went to Los Angeles to aid LeBron James in the Lakers' rebuilding.

The Miami Heat also acquired another coveted target, Jimmy Butler, from the Philadelphia 76ers in a sign-and-trade deal on Monday.

After whiffing on their targets, the Knicks went into damage control mode.

"While we understand that some Knicks fans could be disappointed with tonight's news, we continue to be upbeat and confident in our plans to rebuild the Knicks to compete for championships in the future, through both the draft and targeted free agents," Knicks president Steve Mills said in an official statement.

Amid furore, he later amended it to include, "and continuing to build around our core of young players".

As if their bungling was not bad enough, the Knicks then, somehow, made it worse.

They responded by signing Julius Randle on a three-year deal worth US$63 million (S$85.4 million), Bobby Portis (two years, US$31 million), Reggie Bullock (two years, US$21 million) and Taj Gibson (two years, US$20 million).

Those four players, at best, will bring New York's projected win total to 26 games next season - nine more victories than what they achieved last term.

Randle and Portis have also yet to start in a play-off game in their careers.

The Knicks have since been ruthlessly mocked across social media, as calls for owner James Dolan to sell the team continue to intensify.

BLOOMBERG, WASHINGTON POST

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 03, 2019, with the headline 'Starless Knicks upbeat but face slog'. Print Edition | Subscribe